The high cost of dying

As most of you know, I’ve learned a lot about life without health insurance in the past few years. Last year’s breast surgery was the pits, but what I’m going to share with you now cannot possibly be topped.

A couple of weeks ago, three bills came in the mail. They were all addressed to Alicia Heaton, my Allie. I got a second statement from one of them yesterday.

Number one was from the paramedics:

$650 EMS transport
$ 15 mileage (yup)

Number two was from the Emergency Room Physicians group.

$1,600 for:
Emergency evaluation & management services
Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR)
Endotracheal intubation, emergency procedure

Number three was from the hospital:

$1,958.06 for emergency services

In other words, my decision in the middle of a horrible crisis to call 911 resulted in charges of $4,223.06 even though she was pronounced dead on arrival.

Now, here’s the real nightmare. I knew Allie was dead when I found her on the bathroom floor. Her pupils were fixed and dilated and she was cold to the touch. I figure she’d been gone for at least two or three hours when I found her. Yet, I did what my instincts and training told me to do; I called 911. The operator was adamant that I perform CPR, so I did and waited until the experts got there. Those minutes were the longest of my life and the most horrible.

But you see, they (we) don’t teach you that there’s a price tag associated with the call. Nobody asks if you have insurance. And who in their right mind is going to ask if there’s going to be such charges anyway? You don’t do that. You just pick up the phone and call 911.

Insurance companies usually pick up these charges and nobody says “boo.” The hospital was gracious to give me the typical 30% discount for paying cash, and I suppose I should be grateful. I’m not.

Add to this the cost of the funeral, and I gotta tell ya, folks, dying ain’t cheap. And people wonder why I rail against the status quo!

And for those of you who’ve been asking, I’m hoping to learn how she died next week.


  1. Nancy Heather says

    It’s not just expensive, it’s rude of them not to realize the name change. You’d think they’d at least offer their sympathies and ackowledge that you’ve had a loss!
    As someone who’s gone through the parent in the nursing home thing, I know it’s expensive to die, but it’s really, really expensive to live half-alive for decades, too!
    The whole AIDS crisis has brought a lot of this to the public arena, and I think we should have paid more attention to Hilary’s health care campaign!

  2. It’s pretty absurd. And what else are you supposed to do? I believe that only a doctor can pronounce death, so there’s probably no way around these charges. It’s insult to injury and I’m sorry.

  3. Oh, Terry, talk about rubbing salt in a wound. I’m so sorry — I know it can’t have been easy to go through what you did only to have to confront this bill later.

  4. A nightmare that never ends. God, Terry. I can’t stop saying how sorry I am for your pain.

  5. Hi there! I was directed to your blog from another blogger who was amazed at your ability to reach out about your wife’s death. When I read the comments about the bills fom the hospital it mademe realize how fortunate I am to live in Canada with a public health care system. Here, when we call 911 the ambulance comes — I think we pay a small fee (maybe $90 or something) and that’s it. The rest of the bill is covered by our system. I have never thought about the expenses that can be incurred by death before. I am sorry for your loss! Thanks for sharing though.

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